Tactically speaking - Leicester City

Carl Jenkinson could prove an influential figure when West Ham United travel to Leicester City on Saturday

Leicester City

Possible starting XI
Morgan  Huth  Wasilewski
De Laet  Cambiasso  James  Schlupp
Nugent  Ulloa  Vardy

The formation

Like the managers of many struggling teams, Nigel Pearson has chopped and changed his approach this season.

In recent weeks, while Leicester’s results have not improved, the Foxes manager believes his new 3-4-3 formation has been paying dividends, with his team running Tottenham Hotspur ever so close at White Hart Lane last time out.

The playing style

Style-wise, Leicester like to play with plenty of width, meaning wing-backs Ritchie De Laet and Jeffery Schlupp are likely to be influential on Saturday. Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez has seen himself out of the team due to the change in shape, but when involved he is a real live threat from wide areas.

Leicester’s three centre-backs are not ball-playing defenders. Instead, the Foxes will look to hit long direct balls up to their front three of Dave Nugent, Leonardo Ulloa and Jamie Vardy.

Ulloa is a physical forward who can hold up play and challenge in the air, while Nugent and Vardy are more likely to use their mobility and work-rate to run in behind down the channels.

That style has translated to an average possession of 43.2 per cent – 18th in the Premir League – and a 72.5 per cent pas completion percentage – 17th in the top division. Defensively, Leicester allow 15.5 shots per game, which is a figure only worsened by Queens Park Rangers and Sunderland.

Leicester’s approach has not exactly paid dividends at home, where the Foxes have taken just eleven points from a possible 39 – the worst record in the Barclays Premier League.

Pearson’s side have won just one of their last ten league matches at the King Power Stadium, but have perversely conceded just 17 home goals – the best record of the top-flight’s bottom ten sides.

The players

Leicester manager Nigel Pearson was busy in the transfer market, both last summer and in January, as he attempted to form a squad capable of staying in the Barclays Premier League.

Saturday’s hosts have no fewer than four senior goalkeepers on their books – Denmark international Kasper Schmeichel is the No1, with Australian veteran Mark Schwarzer, Ben Hamer and Adam Smith also in the squad.

Schmeichel has recently returned to action and is an athletic, if relatively short goalkeeper who is a good shot-stopper – like his famous father!

The back three of Marcin Wasilewski, Wes Morgan and Robert Huth are all what you could call ‘old-fashioned stoppers’. All are big, strong, stocky central defenders who use a physical approach to stop opposition forwards.

On the right, full-back De Laet has been preferred to the more attacking Mahrez, while the versatile, speedy Schlupp has the athleticism to speed up and down the left flank all afternoon.

In central midfield, Argentine veteran Esteban Cambiasso may not be the quickest, but his technical ability is outstanding, he can see a pass and pops up with the odd goal. Matty James is also an accurate passer of the ball and capable of creating chances for his teammates.

Up front, Vardy is quick and never stops running, while he has also chalked up a team-high five assists this season. Nugent is also hard-working, holds onto the ball well and can create for his fellow forwards. Leading scorer Ulloa is strong in the air and also contributes defensively with his teamwork and hold-up play.

If Pearson picks Andrej Kramaric, the Croatian is technically gifted and knows where the goal is. He is more likely to do his work on the ground than his fellow strikers, however.

West Ham United

West Ham United have teamed up with football statistics website WhoScored.com to preview Saturday’s fixture at Leicester City.

After the international break, the Barclays Premier League is back this weekend with West Ham's trip to the King Power Stadium.

A hard-fought and ultimately deserved win over Sunderland ended the Hammers' winless run at six matches last time out, and they will be hoping to build on that this weekend.

The Foxes are without a win in eight Premier League matches, while they have not enjoyed a victory over the Hammers since 2000, when Freddie Kanoute was the goalscorer in a 2-1 defeat. Since then, the teams have met seven times, with West Ham winning four and three games ending in a draw. Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing were the scorers in the most recent clash – a 2-0 win for West Ham back in December.

This time around, the WhoScored match forecast – whichh uses teams’ statistics from previous matches to collate strengths and weaknesses which are then used to predict what will happen in upcoming games – suggests it as ‘extremely likely’ that West Ham will score from a set-piece situation.

At the other end, the forecast suggests that Leicester are ‘likely’ to score from a fast-break situation, though in the form he currently is, Carl Jenkinson may be able to assist in halting their threat on the counter.
The right-back was named man of the match for England U21s in midweek, and will look to put in a similar performance this weekend. A WhoScored strength of ‘holding on to the ball’ and a style of play of ‘likes to play short passes’ mean he is unlikely to concede possession, and that could be key in breaking down a Leicester side determined to avoid relegation.

For example, in his most recent game for West Ham, against a rejuvenated Sunderland, he recorded an impressive 86 per cent passing accuracy. While this is impressive enough in its own right, it’s even more commendable considering it’s 11 per cent more accurate than his teammates’ average of 75 per cent.

Another standout stat from Jenkinson’s file is the fact that, in 24 appearances, he has only picked up one yellow card. That is not to say Jenkinson shirks his challenges: the right-back has made 32 successful tackles (the seventh highest at the club) with a 71 per cent success rate. In fact, he has only given eight fouls away all season – an average of one foul every three games.

As befits a player who developed under the watchful eye of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, Jenkinson is clearly more comfortable playing shorter passes, maintaining possession while simultaneously making the opposition do the leg work. Of his 18 passes labelled ‘Key’, 14 of which were short.

However, while he may prefer to play the safer option rather than attempt speculative long balls, Jenkinson certainly isn’t afraid to whip in dangerous crosses with an average of one accurate cross a game – the third highest at the club after Stewart Downing and Mark Noble

Jenkinson has been hugely impressive this season, and surely it is only a matter of time before he breaks into the England senior squad on a regular basis.